last night, we observed "earth hour" - but went beyond the bare minimum: we didn't just switch off the lights, we switched off all our electrical devices (except the fridge of course). we lit one solitary candle in the living room, and sat on the couch. switched off our phones (after i clicked the mandatory photo) and set them aside.
and then thought about what earth hour means to us.
how our lives are no longer centred around the basics: physical work, food, family/in person time, rest. things that don't really have much of a carbon footprint/environmental impact beyond the basics. instead, we have desk-based work, quick-fix food, screen time, weird sleep hours.
belfast is a bit of an improvement over mumbai, as all our travel is on foot/cycle (i haven't sat in a bus for local travel in months!), but our carbon footprint has probably increased anyway: while our non-recyclable-trash bin fills up only once a month, our recyclable trash seems to fill up even faster! and recycling is not the "get out of environmental jail free" card it seems to be: while less damaging, it still costs energy, and is not sustainable in the long term. also, interestingly, our electricity is partly generated by "clean" natural gas, which is not as clean as it sounds - and coal!
also, in mumbai, we were consuming 30 units of electricity per month. in belfast, we're consuming a whopping 150 units! we're still very conservative electricity users - most people consume more in a month than we do in a quarter (our last quarterly bill came to barely 53 pounds)! and then, we use gas for a lot more here: warm water, in addition to cooking (yes, we have officially survived the winter without room heating!). a proper comparision, even with back of the envelope calculations for gas are complicated, but we were billed as much for gas in a month in belfast as were were for a year in mumbai!
and so, i can honestly say that while we feel better about our carbon footprint here, we've actually doing far worse. and we're still doing better than average.
so, what's the solution?
it's hard to say.
on one hand, we're almost at the limit of how low we can go, under our present circumstances.
on the other hand, we're surrounded by people who barely care - for varied reasons.
and then again, as the environmental crisis worsens, we may just have some sort of forced change of circumstances. but given how insulated we are from the effects of the crisis, it may just be that the realization hits too late, and we've nowhere left to go.
on a slightly less somber note though, that one hour in flickering candlelight, snuggling on the couch and talking about the environment was refreshing, although i can see it getting boring quickly if repeated often. maybe that's the change we need to make. incrementally re-wiring our brains to get used to a more environmentally conscious life.
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